Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Brother can you spare two dumps?

So it says on the news that our PM received a Prize.

The award is created for the first time this year by the YARA Foundation (subsidiary of YARA International ASA, world’s leading supplier of mineral fertilizer).

Any one who watches/watched The Simpsons knows ‘The First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence’. good old Burnsy.

Homer "wins" the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, a fictional $2000 prize awarded by Montgomery Burns. The name of the "award" was hastily concocted by Burns on the spot in an attempt to convince Homer to sign a waiver freeing the nuclear plant of all liability for Homer's recently discovered sterility.

Why would any one think of giving an award to the most inappropriate person at the most inappropriate time?

The premise of the award is just as absurd as Burnsy’s. “promote green revolution in Africa” what revolution? For the PM Meles, the word revolution induces high fevers followed by extreme brutality; the last word he wants to hear is a revolution, especially a colored one.

Forget the revolution, here is what they said when they stuffed $200,000 in his fat pocket.

“for his contribution to improved food security and human nutrition in ways that also protect the environment” and “[bringing] about political change in Ethiopia, and placed the rural poor first in the country's development strategies”

Improved food security? Political change? Human nutrition? Protect the environment? That doesn’t sound like Ethiopia at all. The last time I checked, over 10m people are awaiting emergency food aid, Meles and his EPRDF buddies have chained them selves to the throne, bullets are not part of a nutritional diet, and fertilizers are no good for the environment.

The name “YARA Prize” is even more absurd than Mr. Burns’ award in the field of excellence, at least for us Ethiopians. Yara in Amharic translates to “he who defecated”. I think I like it. I am not the least bit interested in the PM’s bowl movements but he sure has been verbally defecating on the Ethiopian public. My disinterest in fecal issues is also shared by the YARA Foundation, YARA manufactures and exports mineral fertilizer, not the wholesome organic kind derived from poop.

On the other hand, PM Meles and his EPRDF croons love fertilizers soooo much I wouldn’t wonder if they use some in their morning coffee - of course not ca-ca kind. Besides petroleum products, chemical fertilizer constitutes one of the largest single import commodity. The fertilizer trade has been increasing since the establishment of Sasakawa Global 2000, (the white guy in the pic is Mr. Carter and the black guy is PM Meles) an organization that openly advocates the use of fertilizers, pesticides and GM seeds. Fertilizer becoming such a lucrative line of business, the three EPRDF affiliated trading houses – Guna, Ambasel, and Dinsho – monopolized the fertilizer market by muscling out others like the Ethiopian Amalgamated LTD.

With in the rural community, fertilizer has been used as a way of blackmailing the farmers to vote for EPRDF, which is another luxury they enjoy from the monopoly. When EPRDF realized they didn’t get the farmers vote, which they were counting on, they denied the much needed fertilizer at a critical time telling them “kinijit yistachu” (go ask CUD). Ever since the election they have been harassing farmers to pay them the debt they owe from last years fertilizer supply, the farmers in turn said “le kinijit nEw mEnsetEw” (we will give it to CUD). on top of that, Did I mention they increased the already inflated price of fertilizer?

As for PM’s award for the most verbal defecation in short period…I mean..YARA Foundation Prize; kickbacks and commissions do not constitute awards for good deeds. What ever the hell it is for, in the name of all good and beautiful, he doesn’t deserve it and this I know, the whole Ethiopian public knows and now you know.

Hell ya, I might even be the recipient of the YARA prize next year for the most vulgar blog entry.

In any case, farming is going be all organic this year so do your part by fertilizing a farmer’s field when out of Addis.

The Simpsons, Season 3. Epis
ode 24: Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

arms “R” us

I hate to be yegedel mamito (an echo) but this article is worth mentioning since it matches my last blog.

The very people who want to pull Africa out of poverty are the ones who put her in this misery pit in the first place. Surprised? Habits being a bad thing, despite their effort they are making by canceling debts and increase aid, on the side, they are still encouraging bad governance through arms trade.

Poor countries like Ethiopia do not manufacture their weapons, if we could, we wouldn’t be fighting each other like savages, we would be busy making more weapons. The article describes the who and who sold what in the international arms trade as well as who spends what on arms.

BTW, my car got broken in to last night as I was having a pleasant dream, I am in the market for a used AK47 to make sure it doesn’t happen again. any one? hey! G8 dudes, spare an automatic rifle?

P.S. on the brighter side of life Andrew heavens latest blog is about favorite places in Ethiopia. Here is mine - I have a view of this mountain (in the background) form my office and when ever I get furious with work or getting robbed or reading such articles, having a quick gaze at it brings me back to calma. everyone calls it Mt. Wechecha, I call it Mt. Serenity now. i will post a better pic.

Friday, July 08, 2005

who let the guns out

There is a truism that stands in all modern society “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Even before most humans barely knew what guns were Ethiopians had a similar proverb, just substitute ‘guns’ for ‘daggers’ but the idea remains the same - (“negeru nEw enji chUbe sew aygOdam”). Some governments seem to have a hard time understanding this cliché for it’s not their compassion and good governance that keeps them in power. Funny you might say, an Ethiopian MP Hailekiros Tadesse recently said “eliminating nuclear weapons would free the world of all fears”. Mind you, this statement came from someone affiliated with a regime that is holding on to authority strictly by the power of guns.

For us Ethiopians, guns in public places are considered a norm. Unless we see guns in action, their presence is not felt any more than the presence of stray dogs. Since the first “senAder” (Snider Breech-Loader Rifle) made its way in to the country during the time of Atse Tewodros, the ownership of arms in Ethiopia has been culturally significant. Besides the obvious fearsome respect one gets for their gun, it also determined their status in society - the bigger the rifle the wealthier the person. In recent times however, the ownership of guns in a household is not much of a big deal, thanks to the influx of AK47 at the end of the cold war, now every farmer is armed to the teeth.

When Mengistu H/Mariam put together the largest army in Africa he didn’t arm them with broom sticks, his russki pals, who by then were playing with much bigger toys, handed him all the AK47 he desired for not more that an ‘I. O. U.’ letter. When Mengistu fled the country and his army fell apart most of the weapons were an accounted for, the desperate solders were trading in their AKs for an ear of corn. May 1991 saw the AK47 sell of the century, it was a “buy one and use that to get another one” deal. The transitional EPRDF government at the time attempted to convince the public to return all the weapons through comical-ads and house-to-house searches, a few did so because they had no use for more than one, the rest of the weapons ended up in the rural community.

My first enjoyment of holding an AK came at the age of ten when it was cheaper to buy an AK than a toy gun. My first satisfaction of killing my opponents with an AK was during my university years where so many precious hours were well wasted playing counter strike. My first holdup with an AK came two weeks ago. Here is how the last one happened.

After the funeral of one of my uncles the past week. The funeral was held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis. The holy trinity is the most exquisite church built during the time of H.I.M. for ceremonial purposes. Story has it that Indian and Middle Eastern master masons were brought for the construction. The architecture of the cathedral combines the common eastern orthodox domed style with some gothic influence, which makes very unique. On top of that, since the time of the monarchy, the burial grounds are reserved for people of high stature like royal family (including H.I.M), patriots of the two Italo-Ethiopian wars and highly influential people. Just like the church the headstones are meticulously carved. all these characters make the Holy Trinity Cathedral a must see land mark for any one who visits Addis, just make sure not to mistake the Red Berets for priest in ceremonial robe.

The special solders are a recent addition, not only to the church but to the city; their presence has been more prominent since the election. their main purpose is intimidation, besides their mean looks they are armed with automatic weapons the likes of me has never seen before, not even on counter strike. Legend has it they are sharp shooters too, which is their other purpose; I guess they have proved that on May 16, 2005.

After the funeral, I figured I snap a picture of two of the holy-drones in their new habitat so I pulled out my camera, that’s when I got stopped by one of them holding an AK47, who then confiscated my camera and told us to go wait by a wall. I asked him what the problem was; he said there are no pictures allowed. I wanted to say “it is your presence that shouldn’t be allowed not taking pictures of the beautiful church” but that will be considered mouthing of. He told me the matter has to be looked at by his superior and started calling for number seven on his CB radio. So I went by the car and started contemplating the possible outcomes of the situation, the simplest was to go home one digital camera less but the harsh ones were too many.

Twenty minutes later three military dudes, who looked of a higher rank from their uniform, strolled in through the gates; they went and had a brief chat with the first guy. I was given the hand gesture to come over; the meanest looking one asked why I have the camera and I Gave him a very straight answer, “to take pictures”. I guess he got pissed of by my response, he then started going on and on about how this is serious crime and my identity should be looked in details. When he said that, my last remaining hopes of leaving in one piece stated pouring out through my sweat pores. When someone that mean says “your identity should be looked in to in details” he is not suggesting a trip to the social security office. Once again I was told to go wait by the car. I tried to explain that there were no pictures taken and if he wishes I could erase the data from the camera. He was adamant.

More chattering on the CB radio.

After a while, a non military pickup truck drove in to the compound, from it emerged a rather large guy in military uniform. You can tell his superiority from his beer belly. They all went and stifled my heinous crimes to their boss; he then looked my way which I took as a sign to walk over. He asked if it is my camera, I said “yes”, he told me to turn it on, I proudly did. After he saw for him self that there were no incriminating pictures, he handed me the camera back and gave me a warning not to do it again. The mean dude who has been threatening ‘detailed investigation’, I could tell by his looks that he wasn’t pleased by my release. As for me, I left the compound before they change their mind.

For any eventuality….

“don’t take your guns to town son, leave your guns at home…”

J. Cash

Friday, July 01, 2005

Once upon a Sene...

The dryness of the past two weeks has been a matter of life and death. Literally. Lost two uncles and gained a sibling. The joy of a baby girl was something the whole family has been expecting but the death of my two uncles, who happen to be brothers, in less than a month time has been quite the shock. Even the thought of death, it is the most inevitable, never mind when some one is so frail, yet its human nature to try and avoid it at any cost. The older uncle fell ill not too long ago. He had gone to the states for medical treatment and he passed on while he was there. It took a little over a week for his body to get shipped. Only part of the family knew about his death at the time and did not want the news get out until the body got home fearing the unpleasant anticipation especially with in the elders. So for most of us, it was a double dose of “unsettle calmness”. His younger brother followed a week after the funeral, he was actually the one that wasn’t doing so well for so long, then again, burying two brothers in a matter of a week ain’t the most ideal.

Although life and death lie on opposite sides of the spectrum, they share so many things in common; one of them being the social gathering. It’s during this times you witness the real Ethiopian socio-cultural bond, especially how our society is very occasion oriented. During the mourning sessions, usually the week of the funeral you should expect to find 50 or more people sitting in a tent pitched for this purpose. A lot happens under the canvas, you meet relatives you never knew existed, you form new bonds and if you are lucky you find the love of your life. There will be bundles of people engaged in epic chats with their head ducked towards the chatterer in turn. It’s like a bazaar of conversations – gossip, legend, tragedy, politics, you name it - you just go around until you find the one that suits you, some times pitching in your own tales.

Besides that, we are approaching the end of Sene now (a month in the Ethiopian calendar that falls in June and July). Sene holds a special position in the life of Ethiopians, by now farmers are ready to sow their seeds after tilling their land, students are anticipating the summer break (although it’s actually winter here) that begins at the end of the month and it is budget closing time for governmental organizations. When we were grade school kids, we had a saying that went “Sene selasa ye’aleka mesa” (Sene thirty class monitors lunch). Basically it implies that on that day, Sene 30 (July 7), which is the last day of school, you settle your beef with the class-monitors who throughout the year exposed your misbehaviors to the homeroom teacher; mesa (lunch) being a metaphor for some good old thrashing. It was a curse to be elected a class monitor for that dreadful day will come.

Thanks to the uberly delayed election results, we will have an extra special Sene 30 this year. The NEBE has been promising the final election results the day after Sene 30 – Hamle 1 (July 8). Considering the number of disputed constituencies and the amount the NEBE managed to investigate so far, I wouldn’t be a tiny bit surprised if they hit the snooze button again.

Taking a very daring assumption that it won’t be delayed further more, thinking about what’s in store after that will dehydrate ones brain. Granted! the patience we are witnessing in most Ethiopians who believe the elections are rigged but would rather wait until the final results to have their say is.... truly something. After all, in regular times there isn’t enuf patience in the country to go around for all 70 million of us, most wouldn’t think about driving their car on the shoulder to over take the one doing a 100 in front of them.

As far as I understand from all those hours spent under the canvas, the result of the elections is irrelevant in how things might turn out. Right now, people are fed up with the current regime whose spite based policy of how to run a country has become soooo clear. Beside, the demagogues with in the EPRDF have seen how much they are loathed by the public, there is no other miracle behind the puny amount of shameful votes they got. so if this people are allowed to stay another five years in power, it will make the past fourteen agonizing years look like – ehhhm…if I may borrow a word from our ever so insightful information minister Bereket ‘Baghdad Bob’ Simon on his comment about the relation of their ethio-interhamwe to the Rwandan genocide“childsplay” DAN DAN DAN!.

So this Sene 30 means a hell of a lot. it’s a day of anticipation and mental preparation For those who are ready to pay the sacrifice and for those who have no care if the sky comes falling down (Boleans, I am gazing your way when I say this) it’s a day of shopping frenzy for supplies to last them for the coming times, who surely don’t wanna spend another extended strike with out their precious…..KinChe.

All I know is that it’s going to be a trashing of a life time for all of us.

anyhu, i guess this means i am still in charge of this blog. i hope there were no coups in my absence ‘cause I still have so much to blog about, like my brief detention by the military. gonna go hydrate my brain first.

trashingly yours

Alternative Thursdays - Week 7 (June16, 2005)

Revolutions per Beats

[Very very late]

I have always held a firm belief that Ethiopia is a nation of extreme contrasts. When people ask me what it is like where I came from, that’s my usual response. If they want further explanations I go on to list the good and the not so good extremities we boast. What happened in Addis in the past week has just made the growing list.

It was only last week Addis was in uproar that left most parts of the city a desolate. It was last week the brutes unleashed their war machines on unarmed people. Last week most of us were angry. This week it looks as if every thing is back to normal, the public is back to its shiny happy status, but what lies beneath their polished skin is the true Whittington’s beetle in a box - an “unsettle calmness” as the western media calls it.

What’s left from last week is, deep sorrow in those who lost some one, bullet holes in the injured, armed drones that have become part of the landscape and lot of speculations on what happened at the AAU on June 12, 2005 and what lies ahead. In times like this when the state media gives you nothing but nausea, speculations and rumors are all we have. Everyone, including me, have their own take on the situation, only time can tell.

For most of us our speculations are also our wishes. A wish to experience things we have always been told they exist but never actually seen one; like freedom and democracy or a yeti.

now in form of music:

  1. Goodiemob – free (intro)
  2. The white stripes – I’m finding it harder to be a gentleman everyday
  3. REM – shiny happy people
  4. Radiohead – karma police
  5. Guns n’ roses – knockin’ on heavens door
  6. The arcade fire – rebellion (lies)
  7. Interpol – a time to be small
  8. Neil Young – human highway
  9. The doors – riders on the storm
  10. The smiths – still ill
  11. Caribou (aka. Manitoba) – yeti
the blogs are back in glory